April 14, 2014

In this Issue:

  • A Message From Our Director
  • New Affiliate Case Studies
  • 2013 Photo Contest Results
  • Pluralism Project on the Road
  • New @ pluralism.org
  • Spotlight on a Pluralism Project Resource: Fremont, U.S.A.
  • In the News
  • We’re on social media – Connect with us!

A Message From Our Director

Dear Friends,

Happy Spring! I hope 2014 is off to a happy, healthy start for you and yours. The semester is in full swing here at Harvard. This past January I led a group ofHarvard alumni on a tour down the Ganges River from Kolkata to Varanasi. I returned to Cambridge just in time to begin teaching. This semester I’m teaching my course,“Case Studies in Multi-religious America.” The course has become increasingly popular among students from both the Harvard College and the Divinity School. The central texts of the course are case studies developed by Pluralism Project researchers and affiliates as a part of our Case Study Initiative. Our collection of case studies continues to grow. We recently added to the collection two cases developed by affiliates of the Pluralism Project. Keep reading to find out more. If you’re interested in using some of them in your course or in your community, please e-mail us at staff@pluralism.org.

Interfaith engagement has been on our minds quite a bit lately. In February, the Pluralism Project, like many of you, marked the fourth annual World Interfaith Harmony Week, a week-long celebration of interfaith engagement. First proposed in 2010 to the United Nations by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan, the week is intended to highlight and encourage the promotion of “love of good, love of neighbor.” Pluralism Project staff created an online resource, Finding Common Ground to honor this occasion. The resource is a guide to using On Common Ground: World Religions in America as a conversation starter in communities, classrooms, or congregations. The resource is available for download on our website. We’re delighted that this resource is featured on the World Interfaith Harmony Week homepage and was downloaded nearly 800 times last month! We here at the Pluralism Project would also like to congratulate organizers in the Philippines, India, Egypt, and Uganda who were this year’s World Interfaith Harmony Prize Winners.

Interfaith encounter was also the subject of the winning photo from our fall/winter photo contest. Congratulations to Charles Lee, our winner, and to Hillary Collins-Gilpatrick, our runner up! Scroll down for a link to a slideshow of select photos from the contest. Thanks to everyone who submitted photos!

Earlier this month, I visited Jacksonville, Florida where I gave a lecture titled “Critical for a Common Future: The Interfaith Infrastructure” as part of the University of North Florida’s Interfaith Week. I talked about the importance of cities as laboratories of religious diversity and the necessity of an infrastructure of relationships for the future of our common life. I’d like to thank the people of Jacksonville and my hosts at the University of North Florida for their hospitality. Thanks especially to the OneJax Institute and the Interfaith Center at UNF!

We at the Pluralism Project very much enjoy hearing from our alumni and affiliates. We recently heard from Kathryn Lohre, former assistant director of the Pluralism Project, of a new volume she’s edited entitled For Such a Time as This: Young Adults on the Future of the Church. Two additional Pluralism Project alums, Jaisy Joseph and Zachary Ugolnik, are contributors to the volume as well. We also received a lovely note from the Rev. Tracy Wells Miller, another alumna of the Pluralism Project, who shared with us a new story from The Tennessean which featured the interfaith scripture dialogue circles organized by her and her colleagues at the Islamic center and gurdwara in Franklin, Tennessee.

One final note: We here at the Pluralism Project are grieved to hear the very recent news from Overland Park, Kansas. Our hearts go out to the Jewish and Christian communities of Greater Kansas City and to all who were affected by yesterday’s tragic shootings at the Jewish Community Center and at Village Shalom assisted living facility. As Jews enter into Passover and Christians into Holy Week, we hold these communities in thought and prayer.   

Friends, as spring approaches, we look forward to a new year here at the Pluralism Project. Thank you for your partnership during years past and in those to come. Your generosity makes our work possible. I am—we are—grateful for your ongoing support. We look forward to staying in touch.

All the best,

Diana L. Eck

New Affiliate Case Studies

“A Question of Membership” invites participants to grapple with individual claims of multiple religious identities. This case was developed by Ellie Pierce together with Wendy Cadge and Emily Sigalow as part of their larger research project on Jewish-Buddhist Encounters. The case, along with a teaching guide, is available on their website. Two new cases were recently added to the Pluralism Project’s Case Study Initiative.

John Kiser and Tamar Miller developed “Rumors in Damascus,” a case which features Emir Abd el-Kader, a 19th century Algerian statesman, scholar, and warrior, as a protagonist. Ellie Pierce was an advisor to the development of this case study. In this case, the Emir is confronted with a dilemma: how to respond to escalating violence against Christians in Damascus? Kiser, himself finding inspiration in the Emir, authored the book Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader and founded the Abd el-Kader Education Project in Elkader, Iowa. Check out their Pluralism Project Affiliate page to learn more about their work.

2013 Photo Contest Results

During World Interfaith Harmony Week we announced the winners and finalists from our 2013 photo contest. The winning image, “Conversation,” was submitted to us by Charles Lee who took the photo during an interfaith community meeting at the International Cultural Center in Montgomery County, Maryland. The meeting was hosted in April 2013 by the Interfaith Working Group in Montgomery County after the Boston Marathon Bombing in an effort to “diffuse any tensions and open dialogue between communities.”

Of those selected as finalists, Hilary Collins-Gilpatrick’s images “Enlightenment is Now” and “Filling the Void” were worthy of honorable mention. You can view these images on our website along with the rest of the finalists and the grand prize winner. Click here to see the slideshow

We’d like to extend a hearty thanks to all who submitted images this year!

Pluralism Project on the Road

In addition to Professor Eck’s recent trip to Jacksonville, Pluralism Project staff members have been on the move, taking the Project’s resources on the road.

  • In February, Senior Research Associate Brendan Randall visited Whistler, British Columbia, where he introduced the case method and facilitated the discussionof several case studies as part of the Intercultural Connections Project (ICP). The ICP is an interfaith project developed by Mafalda Arias of Mafalda Arias and Associates and William Roberts of the Whistler Forum with financial support from Embrace BC, a government agency focused on promoting multiculturalism and eliminating racism. The ICP brought together over 20 emerging leaders from numerous local faith communities for a 24-hour retreat in the beautiful mountains of the Sea to Sky region. During the retreat, the ICP participants shared meals, learned about each other, and discussed five case studies from the Pluralism Project Case Study Initiative. At the end of the retreat,the participants discussed potential case studies from British Columbia, identifying several promising prospects.

  • Whittney also led a case study discussion of “Trouble in Troy” with MIT students participating in the Addir Fellows interfaith dialogue program. You can read more about the program here.
  • This week, Pluralism Project staff will address high school students at the Cambridge School of Weston as part of the school’s Social Justice Day program.

New @ pluralism.org

New research reports, filed by Pluralism Project research interns, have been added to the Pluralism Project’s website, including:

Bowling Green, KY and The Nascent Stages of Religious Diversity

Houston Oasis: A New Model for Non-Faith Based Communities

Experiencing Media After the Boston Marathon Bombings

Coming Soon: Pluralism Project student staff are working hard on a podcast series featuring On Common Ground: World Religions in America and voices from our network of affiliates, alumni, and advisors. Stay tuned!

Spotlight on a Pluralism Project Resource: Fremont, U.S.A.

Fremont, U.S.A (2009) is a documentary film that looks at religious diversity at a local level: Fremont, California is a city transformed by new immigration. Through civic engagement and interfaith action, strangers have become neighbors in this American city. Yet Fremont has also faced real challenges, especially after 9/11. The film is produced by Rachel Antell and Elinor Pierce and narrated by Diana Eck. To order a copy or read more about the film, please visit our website.

In the News

 Looking for more news? Check out the Religion Diversity Newsfeed